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The Innovators

This New Tool Basically Makes Star Trek Technology a Reality

This New Tool Basically Makes Star Trek Technology a Reality
Image credit: Scanadu

Far Out Tech

It seems like every other day we read about some far-out, new technology that makes us scratch our heads and say, "What the heck?" In this series, we'll take a look at all types of crazy new gadgets, apps and other technologies -- and the entrepreneurs dreaming them up.

Mr. Spock, Dr. Bones, prepare yourselves for gadget lust. And the rest of us, too. A new gadget promises to act as a handheld scanner that can read a person's vital health signs in virtually an instant. For all of you Star Trek geeks, it's sort of like the tricorder scanner used by the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

The new tool is called Scanadu Scout. It can measure your temperature, heart rate, and other vital signs just by touching your forehead. Yes, a simple touch to your head is all it needs. The device then connects wirelessly to an app on your smartphone to provide you with analysis of the data it collected.

"Learn ways that different people, locations, activities, foods, beverages, and medicines affect your body," the California-based company says on its website. "Sick or well. Discover connections. Watch trends. Spot side effects. Catch problems early. And track them."

The idea is to provide users with basic yet important health information that can be used to better inform doctors about any conditions you may have. This potentially could be useful for people who suffer from chronic illnesses. Or for anyone else who wants to avoid a needless trip to the doctor or the emergency room if your symptoms can easily be diagnosed.

Another device, called Scanadu Scanaflo, is a urine test kit that the company says can test for levels of glucose, protein, leukocytes, nitrates, blood, bilirubin, urobilinogen, specific gravity, and pH in urine. It will also test for pregnancy. All from a person's home, or wherever it is used.

Being able to access information about your own health seems like a logical next step in our always-connected, mobile-obsessed culture. But, to me, there seem to be at least a couple important flaws -- at least initially. First, I understand that this device could save time in the doctor's office since it essentially eliminates the need for anyone to take and read your vitals. But, realistically, I don't know any doctors who would trust the self-administered findings from an outside device without checking a person's vitals themselves anyway.

Second, the Scanadu Scout makes your health information portable over your smartphone, so it's easy to share with your doctor or other health-care workers. But doesn't this also pose a privacy issue? What if your phone is lost? Can someone have access to even some of your health information? Does Scanadu harvest the information it collects about you?

Unfortunately, not much is officially known still about the technology behind the Scanadu Scout. The "Tech Specs" section of the website is still listed as "Coming Soon."

But there seems to be a swell of enthusiasm for the device in the market. The Scanadu Scout recently raised $1.66 million on crowdfunding site Indiegogo from more than 8,500 funders in 110 countries, AllThingsD reported. Not bad for a little device inspired by Star Trek, eh?

Jason Fell is the managing editor of Entrepreneur.com.

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